Gary's legacy: Our 10 favorite Williams moments

May 08, 2011|By Luke Broadwater

He came in with emotion and he left with emotion. As Gary Williams announced his retirement Friday, the longtime Maryland basketball coach grew teary-eyed. He seemed to choke up before he started to speak as the crowd attending the news conference at Maryland’s Comcast Center chanted his name. 

“This was my decision, but it’s not a quick decision,” Williams said. 

Moments later, he was in tears again. 

“I’ve had my time. I had a job for 43 years in coaching,” Williams said. “I’ve been fortunate. I’m grateful for what I had.”

This was Williams — a tough coach known for yelling at  refs and underperforming players — at his most vulnerable. And that’s probably why so many people loved him. It wasn’t just that he helped the team win so much. But he took fans along for what was always a personal, emotional ride. 

But don’t worry: He’s not going too far. Williams is staying on as a special assistant to Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. 

“Whatever he wants me to do, I’ll help,” Williams said.  

As we look back on his 22 years of coaching at Maryland — and his 667 career wins — every Maryland basketball fan probably has a favorite Gary Williams memory. Here are our top 10. 

10: WILLIAMS’ HIRING

Hired in 1989, Williams (surprise) got choked up during his initial press conference. “I never though I’d have the opportunity to come back and coach Maryland because, ah, ...” he said, his voice trailing off. Maryland’s program was in shambles after star Len Bias had recently died of a drug overdose. Williams represented new hope for the program — and he did not disappoint. 

9: 1990 DUKE GAME 

In 1990, Maryland took a highly ranked Duke team to overtime in an eventual 114-111 loss. Though it was a defeat, it was a sign Maryland was capable of reaching prominence at the national level. (Baltimore Sun writer Kevin Van Valkenburg named this as one of Williams’ most memorable moment.) 

8: 1993 GEORGETOWN GAME 

During Thanksgiving weekend in 1993, the Terps upset No. 15 Georgetown in an early signature win for Williams. Duane Simpkins scored on a buzzer-beating shot. Now Terps players knew they could beat the best teams in the country. 

7: 1994 SWEET 16 RUN

During the 1994 season, Williams’ squad made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 at the NCAA tournament. This marked a run of 11 consecutive seasons the Terps would make the tournament.

6: THE FIST PUMP

We’re not sure when Williams started using his signature move, but we’ll always remember his enthusiastic fist-pumping before each Terps’ game. Years later, this gesture is still a favorite of college students and residents of a certain shore house in New Jersey. 

5: WILLIAMS’ 500th WIN 

In the first round of the 2003 NCAA tournament, Maryland faced elimination at the hands of UNC-Wilmington. But Drew Nicholas saved the day, hitting a buzzer-beating shot that not only propelled the Terps to victory, but gave Williams his 500th career win. Williams called his 2003 squad his biggest overachievers. 

4: COACHING 28 NBA PLAYERS

Names such as Juan Dixon, Joe Smith, Steve Blake, Steve Francis, Terence Morris, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox and now Greivis Vasquez have showed up on NBA rosters, underscoring Williams’ ability to recruit and mold elite talent. 

3: THE DUKE RIVALRY

During Williams’ tenure, Maryland posted the second-most wins of any ACC school other than Duke. The rivalry between the two teams often turned heated, with Duke students mocking Williams’ propensity for perspiration (“Sweat, Gary, sweat,” they liked to chant) and Williams responding by mocking the chanters’ lack of creativity.  

2: FIRST FINAL FOUR APPEARANCE

Though losing to Duke in the 2001 Final Four marks one of Maryland fans’ most bitter memories, it was also a high point. Maryland had reached the elite level at the national stage and the team vowed to capture the title the following season. 

1: NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

In the greatest moment in Maryland basketball history, the Terps’ captured the national title in 2002 with a 64-52 win over Indiana. But they would have never gotten there if a special pair of guards hadn’t pulled the team out of a jam in the Elite Eight. Juan Dixon and Steve Blake hit back-to-back 3-pointers to save the game against Connecticut. “That got us to the Final Four — those two shots,” Williams told The Baltimore Sun. Dixon then lead the team in a win over Kansas. After the championship victory, Williams was named NCAA National Coach of the Year. 

Luke Broadwater is managing editor at b. Follow him on Twitter, @lukebroadwater. He did not go to Maryland.

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